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Best Credit Cards for Free Travel with Points & Miles

airplane flying in the air
The number one way I stretch our travel budget is by leveraging points and miles I earn through credit card use.

I’ve earned over $15,000 in free flights, hotels and more from my points and miles hobby, so we aren’t talking chump change here!

hotel pool

If you are interested in traveling for free with points and miles, you might be a little overwhelmed when you start learning about all of your options.

There are HUNDREDS of cards out there, and there is so much to learn about the differences among them.

So today I’m sharing my picks for the four best credit cards for free travel with points and miles.

I personally have all of these cards and they stick out as offering the best rewards for the least amount of hassle!

While these are the cards that I’ve found work the best for my type of travel, so they may not work the best for everyone.

These are the criteria I used for selecting my top cards:

  • A sign-on bonus worth at least $500 in free travel
  • No high annual fee (under $100)
  • Realistic minimum spending requirement (about $1,500 per month for us)

mommy daughter selfie

I also have to mention that I don’t suggest using credit cards to earn points and miles unless you have a solid history of using credit responsibly.

If it would be hard for you to control your spending with credit cards and you would be prone to carrying a balance on these cards, then this isn’t the right pursuit for you.

Here’s my short list of the best credit cards for travel with points and miles!

Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa (this is my referral link) is probably the most common card in frequent travelers’ wallets.

That’s because it earns Chase Ultimate Rewards, which are desirable because of their high value and flexibility.

The sign-on bonus for this card is a hefty 80,000 points, plus you’ll earn at least 4,000 points from meeting the $4,000 minimum spend.

You can redeem these points for a $840 statement credit. Or you can take advantage of a 25% bonus when you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal or through a statement credit and get over $1,000 worth of free travel!

For a limited time you’ll also get: 

  • A $50 grocery store credit
  • One year of free DoorDash membership
  • $60 Peloton membership credit

Since I was paying $10/month for DoorDash this is a valuable perk.

The downsides of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is an annual fee of $95 that doesn’t give you much in return.

It also only earns 1% back on purchases other than travel, which earns 2% back.

Both my husband and I have held this card for about a year then decided to downgrade to the standard Chase Sapphire card with no annual fee.

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Credit Card Promotion

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa is an incredible card for earning free flights and one I’ve held for years.

The 40,000 point bonus you earn for opening an account and meeting the minimum spending requirement is worth about $700 in airfare!

The minimum spend is $2,000 in three months, which is easy for us to meet just through our daily living. There is a $99 annual fee which is NOT waived the first year.

However, at each card anniversary, you will get 6,000 points deposited into your Rapid Rewards account, which is worth more than the $99 fee.

So if you are going to fly at all with Southwest, the annual fee pays for itself.

You can read more about how I frequently travel to Disney World for free on Southwest here. 

I’ve earned the coveted “Companion Pass” from Southwest by opening both this card and the business version of this card. You can find lots of solid advice on earning Companion Pass from Lynn at The Go To Travel Gal.

I estimate that between both cards (and I’ve actually earned the bonus from the personal card twice) and the Companion Pass I’ve earned over $4,000 in free flights from Southwest.

It is important to note that Chase’s “5/24” rule applies to this card.

This means that if you have opened five new credit cards in the past 24 months you will not be approved for this card, regardless of your credit score.

Capital One Venture

Venture Credit Card Promotion

My next pick for the best credit cards for travel is the Capital One Venture Card. 

While it offers the least value in terms of a sign-up bonus, it is still a solid card for earning free travel.

When I opened mine a few years back there was a 50,000 mile bonus.

These miles plus what you earn from the minimum spend are worth $530 in statement credit for any travel purchase, making them flexible and easy to redeem.

The minimum spend for this card is $3,000 in three months and it has an annual fee of $59 that is waived the first year.

You can downgrade to the no annual fee version of the card if you decide you don’t want to keep it beyond a year.

You can also earn 10 miles back per dollar on any Hotels.com bookings with this card, which might come in handy. That is essentially a 10% rebate.

IHG Rewards Club Select Mastercard

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card Promotion

The Chase IHG Rewards Club Mastercard has a nice sign-on bonus, but that’s not actually why I got the card in the first place.

It was for the perk of one free night at any InterContinental Hotel Group hotel each year that you keep the card and pay the modest $49 annual fee.

We use our free night certificate to stay in an oceanfront room at the Holiday Inn Wrightsville Beach that costs $350 per night during the summer. It is a total bargain for $49!

The sign-on bonus usually hovers around 60,000 points, though I got the card years with an 80,000 point bonus that still comes around from time to time.

You can easily get over $500 of value out of these points if you use them wisely.

IHG Rewards Club is my favorite hotel loyalty program because of how generous they are with points and the quality of their properties around the globe. 

This card now also appears to be under the 5/24 jurisdiction, though in the past it was excluded. 

Well, that wraps up my five best credit cards for travel with points and miles.

Do you have a favorite card? Please leave a comment below!

 

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